Tilikum Crossing

Tilikum Crossing and Mt. Hood

Easy (to Hawthorne Bridge)

2.2-mile loop

No elevation gain

Easy (to Steel Bridge)

4-mile loop

Tilikum Crossing opened in the fall of 2015, Portland’s first new bridge in 43 years. The new Willamette River span makes possible two interesting loops through Portland: A hike along the riverfront and a ride on the Portland Streetcar. Explore both loops on an expedition into Oregon’s urban heart.

Tilikum Crossing is the first major bridge in America that does not allow private automobiles. Instead the $130-million span is open to pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, streetcars, MAX trains, and emergency vehicles.

The Atlantic recently ran an article about Tilikum with the headline, “The Bridge That Bans Cars.”

Defenders of the new bridge point out that it parallels an older Willamette span that bans pretty much everything except cars and trucks. Bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic clogs the Interstate 5 Marquam Bridge for much of the afternoon. Ironically, it can be quicker to cross the river on foot via Tilikum than in a car on I-5.

Portland's skyline and the Hawthorne Bridge

The scenic cable-stayed span connects two of Portland’s old industrial districts that have gone suddenly upscale: the South Waterfront, home to the Oregon Health Sciences University, and the Central Eastside, where warehouses have morphed into trendy brewpubs and shops.

When the Tri-Met transportation agency asked the public to vote on the new bridge’s name in 2013, fans of a Portland street musician stuffed ballot boxes with the name Kirk Reeves. Lesser vote-getters included pioneer suffragette Abigail Scott Duniway, Cascadia, and Wy’east, the native name for Mt. Hood.

Tri-Met finally chose Tilikum, a Chinook jargon word that means people. The term comes from the Chinook tribe of the lower Columbia River, and refers to the people of a clan or tribe, and not just the chiefs. Artwork at the new bridge honors the concept of the Bridge of the People. A sonic sculpture beneath the east footing uses stainless steel disks to focus river sound onto the bike path. The angles of the bridge’s cables are meant to mirror the angle of Mt. Hood. At night, LED lights change the bridge’s color depending on how fast, cold, and deep the river is flowing.

Because Tilikum Crossing doesn’t accommodate cars, it’s not easy to drive here. So start your adventure by taking the Portland Streetcar to the bridge. With the new streetcar loop, you can hop aboard at lots of places.

Possible starting spots …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington.